Attila (2001)

Genres - Historical Film  |   Sub-Genres - Historical Epic, Biopic [feature]  |   Run Time - 180 min.  |   Countries - Lithuania, United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Mike Cummings

Director Dick Lowery mangles history in this 2001 TV miniseries in which Attila the Hun becomes Attila the Hunk, fifth century warriors use 12th century war machines, Attila's brother dies 13 years too soon, and Byzantine Emperor Theodosius II (Tim Curry) is still alive four years after his recorded death. However, the battle scenes and horsemanship are thrilling, and some of the acting is above average. In particular, Powers Booth plays Roman general Flavius Aetius -- the power behind the throne of Roman Emperor Valentinian III (Reg Rogers) -- with the right mix of political artifice, soldierly know-how, and fatherly love (for the adopted daughter he must give up for the good of the empire). Alice Krige is good, too, as nincompoop Valentinian's scheming mother, and Steven Berkoff and Liam Cunningham demonstrate that barbarians can think as well as fight. But as Attila, Gerard Butler lacks the gravity and depth of the cunning and ruthless Flagellum Dei, or Scourge of God, as Attila was known. Fault the casting directors, in part, for this failure, for Butler -- who is tall and blue-eyed with a Herculean physique -- bears no resemblance to the historical Attila, who was short and snub-nosed. Another glaring weakness is Lowery's failure to depict language barriers between the Huns and the Romans, and between the Romans and the Visigoths. Everybody speaks a universal lingua franca, with British and American accents. To hold the interest of the audience, the production surrounds Attila and Valentinian with buxom beauties and throws in soothsaying, a magical sword (à la Excalibur), and plenty of throat-slitting and poisoned goblets. No mention is made of what ultimately chased Attila from Rome: plague. Attila is an okay action film, but not much more.